A test of patients’ understanding: a community pharmacist’s view on high blood pressure

On average 180-220 people walk into each community pharmacy every day. Working as a pharmacist allows me to have contact with a great number of patients from the local community, and I am able to connect with them in my pharmacy in Cornwall to promote positive lifestyle and behavioural changes.  As more than one in four adults are affected by high blood pressure, as one of the key promotions we took on as a Healthy Living Pharmacy was to highlight the ‘know your numbers’ blood pressure campaign.

A number of local Healthy Living Pharmacies including ours carried out over 250 blood pressure checks, where we advised on physical activity, balanced diet, being a good weight, giving up smoking and reducing alcohol consumption with every patient we check. It was interesting to see the number of patients I met who don’t understand how effective simple lifestyle changes can be in reducing their blood pressure. I advise them that it’s ‘as good as taking medicine’.

Over £1 billion is spent in England every year on medicines to treat high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (HSCIC 2014). We know that these medicines are very effective at reducing a patient’s blood pressure, and therefore their risk of stroke and heart attack. However, around a third of patients who take high blood pressure medication do not adhere to their medicine regimes. This poor medicines taking is estimated to cost the NHS around £390 million in additional treatments every year (YHEC/School of Pharmacy, University of London 2010).

When I talk to a patient about their medicines I always reinforce the symptomless nature of hypertension, and that not taking medicines correctly can increase their risk of heart attacks and strokes. Some patients will tell me that they were unaware of these fundamental facts of hypertension and its treatment.

These issues show me that pharmacies can play a vital role by providing patients with information and simple interventions. By highlighting the facts about high blood pressure, the importance of good lifestyle decisions and of taking medicines correctly, we can make a massive difference to our patients’ outcomes.

Mark Stone is a community pharmacist in Gunnislake, Cornwall.


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